This past weekend, Nancy Zeller of Long Ridge Farm in West Moreland, NH, came to The Trading Post for Fiber Arts to do an intensive Indigo Workshop. My part of the event was to build and maintain the fires so Nancy could concentrate on teaching and the students could concentrate on learning and dyeing.
So while Nancy got her part set up Saturday morning,…
…I got the fires going.
Susan, Eran and I got the canopies (oh, those blessed, shade-giving canopies!) up, and we were ready to go.
Some of the items Nancy brought were fascinating. This item for example was hand-painted using indigo and madder dyes by the gentleman you see on the brochure. I was amazed at the artistry and beauty of the piece.
While Nancy got the class started,…
…I got the pots onto the fires and heating up. They needed to be at about 120-125 degrees by about 10:30 so the students could start getting their vats ready in time to do a little dyeing before the lunch break.
The students started the first of the various steps of preparing the stock solution of indigo – the mixing of the indigo powder into just enough water to dissolve it. The sound of 14 metal spoons clinking around in 14 glass jars sounded like some kind of tribal music. Everyone was mixing at their own rhythm, but as a whole it was funny to listen to – and loud!
It didn’t take long before the students all had jars of perfectly prepared indigo solution. I forget who called it “swamp water”, but that describes the color pretty nicely. As ugly a color as that is, to an indigo-dyer, it is beautiful!
And weren’t the students happy about it, too! I’m not sure Debbie’s and Cynthia’s smiles could be bigger. Now was the time to start the magic.
The concentration was thick in the air. Will they get blue or won’t they? Was the pH right? Was there enough oxygen reduced from the vat? Were the color and temperatures right? So much to remember and keep adjusted.
First it is yellowish green.
And then it turns blue.
Watching the transformation over the next several minutes never got tiring.
And people did get blue.
Lots and lots of blue.
The day went very well. I kept busy with the fires and keeping the beds of coal hot enough to continually reheat the pots up to 125 as the student removed them and replaced them on the fires all afternoon. The only downside of the day was the fact that it was brutally hot – in the upper 80’s and the only relief from the sun was the canopies and the shade from the trees.
Of course, we got to do it again on Sunday, but I’ll talk about that tomorrow.